Why Bad Reality TV Is Good For My Soul

Viewing any variety of crap television is about the confirmation that the day I just untied myself from doesn’t suck nearly as bad as what’s going down on some of these shows.

On January 22, The Onion posted a pretty funny spoof article titled “Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show.”

The article describes the newsworthy event like this: “Jenkins, 29, told reporters that after a long and tiring day at her office, all she wanted to do was return home, sit down on her couch, turn on an episode of the TLC reality show Say Yes To The Dress, and treat herself to a brief half hour in which she could look past all the various and near constant ways popular culture undermines the progress of women.”

This article made me think about my own viewing habits. Generally, as a whole, I’m known for watching a lot of TV. Much of what I watch is, admittedly, utter crap. When it comes to bad reality television specifically, I don’t always go for what we might deem as anti-feminist. However, when I do go to that dark, dank place where women are sensationalized as horrifying, high-definition prima-donnas, I go for the gold. I go for “Jerseylicious.”

I’m not 100% proud of this fact, but it’s a fact either way.

There are plenty of shows one would consider a waste of time for a feminist. And, if you’ve read this far into the article, you know that, in fact, you have been guilty of periodically falling head first into this vapid pit of deliciously terrible, estrogen-fueled drama. “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “The Jersey Shore,” “America’s Next Top Model,” any number of wedding-oriented shows, any form of marrying-off show, all of the “Real Housewives,” possibly “New Girl,” and, yes, “Jerseylicious.”

These shows are the things our collective nightmares are made of. And yet, we sometimes (or all the time) tune in to watch female progress shrink back several decades.

As we consider ourselves feminists and/or progressives of some variety, why then do we enjoy these shows so much? As the woman in the spoofy Onion article, does the progressive part of our brain just “switch off” for a while?

The easy answer to why we enjoy these shows, or any form of entertainment, is that we are human beings. “Reality-based” moments have been playing out for hungry spectators since life slithered out from the primordial soup. It’s just that in ancient times people had Greek theater to promote their cultural identity and we have NFL football and “Mob Wives.”

Our culture, as a whole, enjoys extremes and drama, in whatever form. What’s more “Jerseylicious” than watching a cheetah take down a gazelle (both female, of course) on The Nature Channel? They easily seem like one in the same to me.

We could blame TV for a lot of things. And, we do. But if the Nielsen ratings system is a somewhat democratic process, then we also have to blame ourselves for what ultimately reigns supreme on our channel guide.

Are these female-oriented reality shows perpetuating scary womanly personas or can we simply be entertained and possibly learn something by viewing these extremes?

To argue that we are actually learning something from these shows would be rather hyperbolic. So, at least for myself, viewing any variety of crap television, female-oriented or otherwise, is about the confirmation that the day I just untied myself from doesn’t suck nearly as bad as what’s going down on some of these shows. Exchanging a few strained, curt words with the gal in client services, the exchange I obsessed over on the long commute home, ultimately pales in comparison to an average day at the Gatsby Salon.

Sometimes, that’s just how I get by. Thank you, my “Jerseylicious” friends, for all the hair-pulling-bitch-slapping good times. You made me re-examine my day, and it was actually alright because no one got bitch-slapped.

When I watch “Jerseylicious,” I’m not off the clock from feminism—I’m off the clock in every conceivable way. I don’t care about these people, and I have some fun at their expense. If I’m failing at anything from watching all this bad TV, it’s at being an interesting human being. Someone who goes home from work and partakes in water-color painting while listening to Mozart or upcycles old wine corks while the gluten-free breakfast bars are baking. But I really doubt it makes me anti-feminist.

If my indulgence in these terrible TV shows does mean my feminist membership card has been revoked, I’ll leave you all with one last thing as a form of retribution. A list of surprisingly feminist TV shows that are also very good:

  • “30 Rock”
  • “Mad Men”
  • “Game Of Thrones”
  • “Parks And Recreation”
  • “Girls” (I guess)

Can you add any quality shows featuring strong female figures for us to watch? If not, would you care to weigh in on why you might watch bad television from time to time?

Jocelyn Hoppa is a writer and editor with 12 years experience, working for various publications such as Crawdaddy!, The L Magazine, and ‘Sup. She currently resides in an outlier town of Philly.

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